We Can Secure The British Public A Final Say On Brexit - But We Need Labour's Help

As many as 73% of Labour voters oppose exiting the EU but the Labour leadership is denying the people the last word
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The Brexit ball is now back in the Commons’ court.

This time, it will be a distinctly different EU Withdrawal Bill to the one the House of Commons last debated.

That is because the House of Lords last month defeated the Government on fifteen amendments. In doing so, membership of the European Economic Area was backed and attempts to hand ministers ‘blank cheque’ powers were squashed.

This was achieved because both Tory and Labour Peers joined the Liberal Democrats and voted with their conscience, defying their parties’ whips.

The challenge for MPs of all political colours is to follow the example set by their colleagues and vote to defend the interests of their constituents.

The first hurdle, however, will be the time MPs have to debate these amendments. The Tories plan to squeeze the full debate time on amendments into just 12 hours.

It is an insult to parliament.

MPs are due to address amendments from Northern Ireland to the membership of the single market to the adoption of the charter of fundamental rights and more. These issues will impact us all, from our rights to make up of our country and the job opportunities available for young people.

The Prime Minister cannot run away from this debate. The public deserve and expect their MPs to properly scrutinise their plans.

Liberal Democrats will therefore seek to ensure Parliament takes back control over the Brexit Bill’s timetable by challenging the Government’s proposed timetable.

However, once we cut through the weeds of parliamentary protocol and procedure, the real issue facing MPs this week is the vote on giving the people have final say, and an opportunity to Exit from Brexit.

To that end, I have lodged amendment 19(a) to give people the opportunity to remain in the EU.

Theresa May, however, does not want my amendment to go to a vote. She is hoping that she can use parliamentary procedure to avoid the issue. But with enough MPs, that won’t matter.

So far, down to 40,000 contacts to numerous MPs, Liberal Democrats have already secured cross-party support from the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and a handful of Labour MPs.

But for some reason Jeremy Corbyn is refusing to take a stand at this critical juncture. Despite as many as 73% of Labour voters opposing exiting the EU, the Labour leadership is denying the people the last word on Brexit. If Mr Corbyn truly fights for the many not the few, why is this mantra not applied to his own voters?

It is not just Corbyn. Although high-profile ‘remain’ figures like Chuka Umunna have backed the People’s Vote campaign, I need them to throw their full weight behind Lords Amendment 19a. Now is not the time to shy away. ‘Remain’ MPs must seize this opportunity to give the people a say on the deal.

Brexit is far from a done deal. We do not have to accept the Doomsday scenarios the Tories are planning for. We do not have to give in to the loud anti-immigration voices, and we do not have to sacrifice all the strength that we gain by being part of the European Union.

We can stand up to Theresa May and we can secure the final say. But we need support from Labour. At a huge moment in this process it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn is happy to go along with Theresa May and quietly allow Brexit to happen.

It doesn’t have to be that way. My message is clear: I ask all Labour supporters to contact their MPs and ask them to put their money where their mouths are and add their names to amendment 19a.

I personally ask Mr Corbyn to think of his voters - many of them young, optimistic people who see a brighter future in Europe - and to reconsider his position.

We can stop Brexit, but we need Labour to stand with us against the Tories to make it happen.

Tom Brake is the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington and party Brexit spokesperson


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